Basque mythology

Last updated
A reproduction of a Hilarri, a Basque gravestone, from 1736 with commonly found symbols. Tombstone in English: Maria Arros Sagaray died on the 19th day of April, 1736 Obiit.JPG
A reproduction of a Hilarri, a Basque gravestone, from 1736 with commonly found symbols. Tombstone in English: Maria Arros Sagaray died on the 19th day of April, 1736

The mythology of the ancient Basques largely did not survive the arrival of Christianity in the Basque Country between the 4th and 12th century AD. Most of what is known about elements of this original belief system is based on the analysis of legends, the study of place names and scant historical references to pagan rituals practised by the Basques. [1]


One main figure of this belief system was the female goddess Mari. According to legends collected in the area of Ataun, the other main figure was her consort Sugaar. However, due to the scarcity of the material, it is difficult to say if this would have been the "central pair" of the Basque pantheon. Based on the attributes ascribed to these mythological creatures, this would be considered a chthonic religion as all its characters dwell on earth or below it, with the sky seen mostly as an empty corridor through which the divinities pass. [2]

Historical sources

The main sources for information about non-Christian Basque beliefs are: [3]

Mythological creatures and characters

The Urtzi controversy

Urtzi may or may not have been a Basque mythological figure. There is evidence that can be read as either supporting or contradicting the existence of such a deity. To date neither theory has been able to convince fully. [4]

Influencing other religions

The Iberian Peninsula's Indo-European cultures like the Lusitanians and Celtiberians seem to have a significant Basque substrate in their mythologies. This includes the concept of the Enchanted Mouras, which may be based on the Mairu, [5] and the god Endovelicus, whose name may come from proto-Basque words. [6]

Myths of the historical period

After Christianization, the Basques kept producing and importing myths.


  1. "The Basque Mythology at the present time" (PDF). KOBIE (Serie Antropología Cultural). Bilbao. Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia-Diputación Foral de Bizkaia. Retrieved 7 March 2020.
  2. Lezama Perier, Patxi Xabier. "Euskal Mitologia". Euskaltzaindia. Royal Academy of the Basque Language. Retrieved 2 April 2020.
  3. Kasper, M. Baskische Geschichte (1997) Primus ISBN   3-89678-039-5
  4. Trask, L. The History of Basque Routledge: 1997
  5. Anuntxi Arana: Mari, mairu eta beste - 1996 - Bulletin du musée basque n°146.
  6. Encarnação, José d’. 2015. Divindades indígenas sob o domínio romano em Portugal. Second edition. Coimbra: Universidade de Coimbra.

Related Research Articles

Basque language Language of the Basque people

Basque (; euskara[eus̺ˈkaɾa]) is a language spoken in the Basque Country, a region that straddles the westernmost Pyrenees in adjacent parts of northern Spain and southwestern France. Linguistically, Basque is unrelated to the other languages of Europe and is a language isolate in relation to any other known living language. The Basques are indigenous to, and primarily inhabit, the Basque Country. The Basque language is spoken by 28.4% (751,500) of Basques in all territories. Of these, 93.2% (700,300) are in the Spanish area of the Basque Country and the remaining 6.8% (51,200) are in the French portion.

The Basques are a European ethnic group, characterised by the Basque language, a common culture and shared genetic ancestry to the ancient Vascones and Aquitanians. Basques are indigenous to and primarily inhabit an area traditionally known as the Basque Country, a region that is located around the western end of the Pyrenees on the coast of the Bay of Biscay and straddles parts of north-central Spain and south-western France.

Basque nationalism nationalist movement

Basque nationalism is a form of nationalism that asserts that Basques, an ethnic group indigenous to the western Pyrenees, are a nation, and promotes the political unity of the Basques, today scattered between Spain and France. Since its inception in the late 19th century, Basque nationalism has included separatist movements.

Sky father archetype

In comparative mythology, sky father is a term for a recurring concept in polytheistic religions of a sky god who is addressed as a "father", often the father of a pantheon and is often either reigning or former King of the Gods. The concept of "sky father" may also be taken to include Sun gods with similar characteristics, such as Ra. The concept is complementary to an "earth mother".

Lehendakari position

The President of the Basque Government, usually known in the Basque language as the Lehendakari, is the head of government of the Basque Autonomous Community. The lehendakari leads the executive branch of the regional government.

Basque Country (greater region) Cultural and historic land of the Basque people

The Basque Country is the name given to the home of the Basque people. The Basque country is located in the western Pyrenees, straddling the border between France and Spain on the coast of the Bay of Biscay. Euskal Herria is the oldest documented Basque name for the area they inhabit, dating from the 16th century.

Mari (goddess) Basque goddess

Mari, also called Mari Urraca, Anbotoko Mari, and Murumendiko Dama is the goddess of the Basques. She is married to the god Sugaar. Legends connect her to the weather: when she and Maju travel together hail will fall, her departures from her cave will be accompanied by storms or droughts, and which cave she lives in at different times will determine dry or wet weather: wet when she is in Anboto; dry when she is elsewhere. Other places where she is said to dwell include the chasm of Murumendi, the cave of Gurutzegorri (Ataun), Aizkorri and Aralar, although it is not always possible to be certain which Basque legends should be considered as the origin.

Mairu, also called Maideak, Mairiak, Saindi Maidi, Intxisu in the Bidasoa valley are creatures of Basque mythology. They were giants who built dolmens or harrespil. Like the dolmens, they are only found in mountains. They are often associated with lamia, though these are known in all the Basque Country.

Urtzi is a Basque term which either represents an old common noun for the sky, or is the name for a pre-Christian sky deity.

Communist Movement of Euskadi was originally the branch of the Communist Movement (MC) in Basque Country and Navarre, Spain. EMK was previously known as ETA Berri, a splinter group of ETA. EMK separated itself from MC in 1983. In 1991 EMK merged with LKI and formed Zutik in Basque Country. In Navarre EMK took part in forming Batzarre. Some of its most prominent leaders were Patxi Iturrioz, Eugenio del Río, Rosa Olivares Txertudi, Milagros Rubio, Jesús Urra Bidaurre and the brothers Javier and Ignacio Álvarez Dorronsoro.

Sorginak are the assistants of the goddess Mari in Basque mythology. It is also the Basque name for witches or pagan priestesses, it being difficult to distinguish between the mythological and real ones.

Basque literature

Although the first instances of coherent Basque phrases and sentences go as far back as the San Millán glosses of around 950, the large-scale damage done by periods of great instability and warfare, such as the clan wars of the Middle Ages, the Carlist Wars and the Spanish Civil War, led to the scarcity of written material predating the 16th century.

Basque Country (autonomous community) Autonomous community of Spain

The Basque Country, officially the Basque Autonomous Community is an autonomous community in northern Spain. It includes the Basque provinces of Álava, Biscay, and Gipuzkoa.

Txillardegi Spanish writer and politician

José Luis Álvarez Enparantza, better known by his pseudonym Txillardegi, was a Basque linguist, politician and writer from Spain. Born in San Sebastián, he did not learn the Basque language until the age of 17, but came to be considered one of the most influential figures in Basque nationalism and culture in the second half of the 20th century.

Salazarese dialect critically endangered Basque dialect

Salazarese is the Basque dialect of the Salazar Valley of Navarre, Spain.


The Betizu is a breed of small mountain cattle which live in a semi-feral state in some mountainous parts of the Basque Country in both Spain and France. It is classified as an endangered breed by both the Ministerio de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentación, the agriculture ministry of Spain, and by the Conservatoire des Races d'Aquitaine in France.

Basque center ethnocultural community centers

Basque centers are associative organizations that appeared in the end of the 19th century in cities that have really an important presence of Basque emigration, with the purpose of helping each other and keeping links with Basque culture and homeland. They are also meeting points for the Basque people who live all around the world far away from their land.

Akerbeltz Historical Basque analog of the Devil or ancient god of the land

Akerbeltz or Aker is a spirit in the folk mythology of the Basque people. It is said to live inside the land and is believed to have has many elves as servants. In Christianity, Akerbeltz is considered the live image of the devil, performing sexual abuses against members of Christian covens.

Patxi Xabier Lezama Perier is a Basque sculptor and author of a book entitled Mitología Vasca.